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12.31.14 Lambda's 2014 12.13.14 Lambda's Favourite Songs Of 2014
10.15.14 Lambda's Top 50 Of The 00's07.16.14 2014 Quarterly Report #2
06.17.14 Pick The Best And Worst 5 Stars Of The 05.02.14 2014 Quarterly Report #1
12.31.13 Sputnik Review Of The Year 201312.23.13 Lambda's 2013
11.23.13 A Beginner's Guide To Buckethead 11.12.13 2013 Quarterly Report #3
07.16.13 2013 Quarterly Report #206.04.13 My Daughter Is Mad At Me
04.23.13 2013 (late) Quarterly Report #101.26.13 5 Bands With Consistently Terrible Artw
12.31.12 Lambda's 201211.26.12 Top 10 Movies Of 2012 (well.. So Far)
10.15.12 2012 Quarterly Report #208.12.12 Looking For Albums Similar To...
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Lambda's 2014

I didn't listen to as many new records as I normally do this year- I focused more on older releases/discographies. Nonetheless, I did hear some awesome stuff (as well as some crap). Here's everything I heard, ranked from worst to best.
The Ways of Yore

Boring as hell. The truly awful chanted/spoken vocals by Varg do nothing to help matters. Furthermore, the decision to end the album with re-records of two songs from previous records is just lazy. I get that "To Hel and Back Again" is noticeably different from its predecessor, "Til Hel og tilbake igjen," but that song was just released on Fallen 3 years ago. Recycling such recent material just screams laziness to me- unless there's some big "concept" connecting the re-recorded songs to their predecessors (which I doubt). A few cool effects save The Ways of Yore from a 1... barely. 1.5
30The Used
Imaginary Enemy

A terrible record. "Cry" is catchy and "A Song to Stifle Imperial Progression" has its moments, but Imaginary Enemy consists mainly of disingenuous attempts at 'radio' songs with overblown choruses and hackneyed, done to death melodies. Some cliched 'political' lyrics only exacerbate the record's badness. "Generation Throwaway" is the worst song I've heard all year. 1.8

Celery (love that album name) is one twenty-nine minute jam song. Buckethead sticks mostly to slower, more rock-influenced soloing this time as opposed to shred (though he does a bit of that too) and there are some excellent moments (such as around the nine-minute mark). The song gets boring after a while, though, as there isn't much variation in the playing, and the backing instrumentation is always kept mid-tempo. 2.1
A World Lit Only by Fire

The constant mid-tempo, pounding rhythms on this album actually gave me a bit of a headache (and not in a good way). I found this overall a very tedious listen; some of these songs would be cool on an album with more stylistic variation, but as it stands A World Lit Only by Fire is essentially the same thing ten times in a row. I like some of the rhythms ("New Dark Ages") and I can appreciate the heaviness, but as a whole this is a dreadfully boring, and at times unpleasant, record to endure. 2.1
The Serpent and the Sphere

The first, and hopefully only, big disappointment of 2014. The Serpent and the Sphere is a tedious and mostly uneventful listen whose moments of occasional excellence only serve to highlight how good the record could have been had the band not surrounded them with such boring ones. The album is confusing structurally, and the lack of clean vocals is disappointing, as it robs the record of much dynamic potential. I suppose the three dull instrumental guitar cuts were meant to appease this, but that's just it: they're dull. The production is subpar too: the exclusively harsh vocals are hard to decipher. An enormous letdown. 2.3

The Great Mass was one of my favourite records of 2011, so naturally my expectations for Titan were pretty high. Unfortunately, in case you couldn't tell from my rating, the record did not live up to them. The problem isn't with the performances, which are (aside from a couple of subpar vocal moments) spot on, or the production, which is once again excellent. No: the issue is the songwriting. A lot of the tracks here are directionless and lack anything really distinctive, which causes the whole album to run together. There is no "Pyramid God" or "Oceans of Grey" this time around. In fact, I'd be hard-pressed to point out any stand-out moments, because the only moments that stood out were those aforementioned vocal hiccups (such as the chanting on "Burn"). The almost total lack of clean vocals hurts the album too. Disappointing. 2.5
25Devin Townsend Project

SKY BLUE: Very Epicloud-esque. Overproduced in spots, to my ears. Also, the poppiest thing Devin has ever released. It has some good songs: most notably "Universal Flame," which is my favourite track across both discs, and "Midnight Sun." Overall though, disappointing in that it lacks the diversity and depth of Devin's best releases. 3.0
DARK MATTERS: I admire the creativity in the narrative and dialogue, but the problem with this disc is the music itself: it does nothing for me. There are some good moments scattered across the eleven songs here (most notably in "War Princess," the disc's strongest song) but it consists almost entirely of go-nowhere riffs that are repeated far too many times. The songs should have come first, and then some dialogue could have been stuck between them (as separate tracks) or at their beginning/ends; instead, we get overlong, repetitive metal riffs with dialogue stuck overtop. Along with the first Ziltoid, this is Devin's weakest album. 2.1
Back to Oblivion

Now, I will preface this by saying that deriding this record for the sole reason that it sounds nothing like Say Hello to Sunshine makes you no better than fans who derided that album for sounding nothing like What It Is to Burn. With that said, though, Back to Oblivion is a largely unimpressive record for me, but not only because it lacks the complexity and creativity of Sunshine-- the majority of these songs are simply dull to me, and were it not for the phenomenal vocals of Nate Barcalow, they could be excerpts from the discography of any generic rock band (though there is a lot of Deftones influence on here). As it stands, the vocals elevate the record, but it is nowhere near the musical level that Say Hello to Sunshine was at. Also, why stick the two acoustic songs right at the end, one after another? Bad, bad decision there. 2.7
Kindly Bent to Free Us

Cynic bent their sound with kind intentions, and it freed us from any notions of their next album being great. Yeah, that was kind of forced. Whatever. The problem with this record is that it's like a nice breeze. It's not unpleasant to listen to, but nothing really happens for its duration. It just blows by... like a breeze (there's the connection). I can't say that this is a bad album, because it's not, but it's not a very captivating one either- and for a band as established as Cynic, that is pretty surprising. 2.8
A Voice Within

This album falls into the trap that a lot of modern prog metal does: it jams a bunch of not unpleasant but similar heavy riffs together song after song and does not differentiate enough between them, save small eclectic moments and touches which are forgotten about after the record ends. Furthermore, the album's marriage between djent and pop doesn't work for me- every time I try to hook on to the poppy melodies, the slow drumbeats and chugging guitars strip the energy away. Good production and performances, but the songwriting leaves a lot to be desired. 2.9
21Animals as Leaders
The Joy of Motion

So much great instrumental work, so few great songs. In fact, I wouldn't call any of the tracks on The Joy of Motion great. I love the production, the detail, and, as aforementioned, the performances, but the songwriting is just unsatisfying to me. The tracks seem to go in different directions without ever attributing to anything. As a result, the numerous fantastic sections are wasted in a hodgepodge of go nowhere riffage. 3.1

I went into this expecting to hate it, but it pleasantly surprised me. Though Crosses is too long and some of its lyrics are a bit hackneyed, overall it is a strong listen; it's catchy, well-produced, and Chino's vocals are extraordinary. I wish there was more screaming on the record, though (like the end of "Bitches Brew"). 3.4

Shelter sees Alcest dropping the black metal entirely from their sound and this results in a pleasant and enjoyable release, but one which is more one-dimensional than their previous work. It's got some absolutely fantastic songs ("Voix Sereines," "D?livrance") but it also has some underwhelming tracks, including one total dud ("Away"), and that aforementioned one-dimensionality is slightly disconcerting. 3.4
18Every Time I Die
From Parts Unknown

Great vocals from Keith Buckley, and I like the experimentation ("Moor," the piano on "El Dorado"). The energy and heaviness are awesome too. However, the songs tend to run together. 3.4
Pale Communion

While I admire Opeth's bravery in totally changing their sound and direction, the change isn't to my taste. This is a very retro progressive rock album, harkening back to the 1970's, and I tend to prefer forward rather than backward-thinking music. With that said though, the production is great (I like the drum sound especially- they are not triggered or overproduced), the performances are good (though Mikael's vocals are occasionally a little unfitting), and there are some awesome moments (the acoustic guitar, spooky middle, and catchy ending of "Moon Above, Sun Below;" the strings, when they appear; all of "Faith in Others"). Overall, Pale Communion is better than Heritage, but there is little point in comparing it to the band's other records as they are completely different stylistically. 3.4
Once More 'Round the Sun

Once More 'Round the Sun improves upon the more commercial formula that The Hunter went for by, ironically, being less commercial. Don't get me wrong- this is still a record with plenty of catchy, poppy moments, however there is more depth to these songs and they are (mostly) more interesting. Is this Mastodon's best work? No. Some of the production choices are questionable- the bass is very loud and the vocals too quiet- and some of the tracks ("Feast Your Eyes", "High Road," opener "Tread Lightly," closer "Diamond in the Witch House") don't do much for me. However, is Once More 'Round the Sun worth hearing? Yes; and, as aforementioned, it is an improvement on The Hunter. 3.6
15Marissa Nadler

Great album concept, and the atmosphere matches it extremely well. Marissa's guitar playing is nicely emotive too, and the extra instrumentation- particularly on the record's first two tracks- is dead on. The production is superlative, with just the right amount of reverb on Marissa's voice and a good amount of space for everything to breathe. The issues with the record are that some of the songs are slightly dull, and that after the fantastic first two tracks the same heights are never reached for the album's remainder. Still, the strength of the performances and production and sheer earnestness of July are enough to warrant a recommendation. 3.6

While occasionally too slow and meandering for my taste ("Eyes Closed," "Sustain"), overall III is an impressive record. The standout tracks ("Can't Leave the Night", "Hedron") are fantastic, and the sheer amount of variety- from hip-hop beats on "Triangle" and "CS60" to the lounge jazz of "Differently, Still" to the infectiously appealing circus-esque pulse of "Since You Asked Kindly"- is admirable. It doesn't all work, but what does is very good. 3.7
13Dog Fashion Disco
Sweet Nothings

Read my review here: -- 3.7
Distant Satellites

The electronic drumming in the second half of the record doesn't totally work for me, and as a whole the record isn't as consistent as their best work, but nonetheless Distant Satellites is another great release from Anathema. The three parts of "The Lost Song" and the band-title track "Anathema" (which features some of Vincent's most impressive vocal work ever) are the highlights. The mix is very good too. Overall, Distant Satellites isn't at the top of Anathema's discography, but it's far from the bottom, and as it stands is a mostly worthwhile listen. 3.7
Hold Me Forever (In memory of my mom)

Overall, a fantastic pike that manages to transmit a feeling of grief despite the rather upbeat and energetic nature of the composition(s) (this is six songs that connect to make one). The last half is essentially one long guitar solo, and Buckethead really goes all out; and while the thirteen minute long shredfest does a get a bit tiresome after a while, it is nonetheless impressive. Hold Me Forever is an excellent release. 4.0
10Thee Silver Mount Zion
Fuck Off Get Free We Pour Light on Everything

The lo-fi production grew on me as the record played out, and I love the violins and female vocals. The male vocals are a bit much at times (the beginning of "What We Loved Was Not Enough") but on the whole, they work for me. There are some fantastic songs here- the aforementioned "What We Loved Was Not Not Enough" and "Take Away These Early Grave Blues" being two highlights. "Little Ones Run" is excellent as well. I don't care much for "Austerity Blues" though- it feels stretched out- and it's the longest track here. On the whole, however, this is a very successful release. 4.2
The Satanist

An excellent record, The Satanist shows that Behemoth have not slowed down despite their nearly five year hiatus. They are just as heavy, fast, and aggressive as ever, as songs like "Messe Noire," "Ora Pro Nobis Lucifer," and the title track demonstrate, and the songwriting is fantastic throughout the record. This great songwriting is emphasized by equally great performances, especially from Nergal, who is in better vocal form here than I've ever heard him. My only complaint is that some of the tracks run together a bit- more experimentation, like the guitar solo on the aforementioned "Messe Noire" and the ambient/soft parts on the ironically titled "In the Absence ov Light," would be welcome and help this issue. Regardless though, The Satanist is a stellar record and well worth checking out. 4.2
SIDENOTE: This was 666th rating.
8Death Grips
The Powers That B - Part I: Niggas on the Moon

I'm not sure what to make of this record- and I think that's exactly what Death Grips intended when creating it. I have admiration for the increasingly experimental direction the band is heading in, but at the same time prefer the Exmilitary and The Money Store-era to it. Some of these tracks lack anything that really grabs me. MC Ride is great here, though. And the production is excellent. And some of the tracks ("Have a Sad Cum," 'Fuck Me Out") are incredibly interesting. I have in the past praised Death Grips for never releasing the same record twice, and the trend continues here. Regardless of your opinion of their output, that trait alone is extremely admirable. 4.4
7Ne Obliviscaris

Citadel addresses the main problem with Portal of I: length. This is a more focused, tighter, and less intimating record than its predecessor, and I applaud NeO for their restraint. Furthermore, "Painters of the Tempest" is the best song they've ever done. I suppose my own waning interest in progressive metal is partly to blame for why I don't enjoy this more- Citadel is a very, very strong record as a whole, and I have simply heard so much progressive metal over the last few years that I have exhausted myself of much interest of the genre. Many of the metal parts on here just bore me. Nonetheless, Citadel impresses, and I highly recommend it. 4.4
6Trophy Scars
Holy Vacants

I would not call Holy Vacants a perfect record. Due to their loose structures, a lot of the songs run together, like melted ice cream- it's still delicious, but it's hard to eat and better if it's solid. The drums are a bit loud in the mix as well. However, the uniqueness of the band's sound and fantastic musicianship are huge pluses, and I love the strings and other extra instrumentation. Overall, Holy Vacants is a superb record, but not a perfect one. 4.5

Noisy, experimental, and featuring some really great lyrics, CLPPNG is one of my favourite records of the year. I love the unorthodox instrumentation (the alarm clock on "Get Up," the metallic clangs and chainsaw samples on "Body & Blood," "Work Work"'s glassy, glitchy backing), the lyrics (as aforementioned), and the production. The noise track which closes the record ("Williams Mix") is really awesome too. Though there a couple of overlong or otherwise underwhelming songs, CLPPNG is still a superb release. 4.5
4 Darkspace
Darkspace III I

Dark Space III I continues the trend of better production values which has henceforth characterized the band's discography. However, it also sees the group experimenting with their established sound: namely, electronic influence in the drums, less vocals, and more abrupt changes from heavy to soft. While of the former two I possess mixed feelings, the latter works well; the sudden changes help distinguish between sections. The twenty-seven minute opener is a little overlong, but nonetheless Dark Space III I succeeds at creating a dark, cold atmosphere that I find myself more than willing to return to. More listens will determine whether this, or the band's previously assumed magnum opus, Dark Space III, is the superior record. 4.5
3Kayo Dot
Coffins on Io

Though occasionally indulging in overlong extended sections (the outro of "Offramp Cycle, Pattern 22," "Spirit Photography"'s mid-section) and containing one track below the quality of the rest ("Longtime Disturbance on the Miracle Mile"), Coffins on Io is one of my favourite albums of the year. The atmosphere evoked is so effective-- exactly the retro '80's sci-fi vibe (a la Blade Runner) that Driver was going for-- and the songwriting is so interesting, that I can't give it any lower than a 4.5. Though Kayo Dot has been a notoriously inconsistent group, I'm pleased to report that Coffins on Io is fantastic. 4.5
To Be Kind

I think I like this even more than The Seer. While that album succeeded more atmospherically, this one is more diverse- and in a two-hour plus album, diversity is welcome. "Bring the Sun / Toussaint L'Ouverture" is the only misstep- it's a little overlong. Regardless, To Be Kind is one of the best records of the year. 4.8
1Casualties of Cool
Casualties of Cool

Read my review here: -- 5.0
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